Like the changing colors of the leaves, children returning back to school and the three-tailed flying dung-birds returning to roost in Capistrano or something, certain events mark the start of a season. NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup doesn’t seem official until grown dudes are shoving each other over race cars.

Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick came together on a lap 135 restart of today’s race at Chicagoland Speedway, cutting the left rear tire on Harvick’s car and sending Harvick into the wall when that tire finally went.

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“I got a fairly good restart,” Harvick told NBCSN. “Saw those guys coming on the apron, got together and had a good run up. Stood my ground and [Johnson] just slammed into the side of the door like I wasn’t even there”

Johnson, however, claimed to Motorsport.com that a push from behind was the real culprit:

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I got a push from behind and went down on the apron. I got to get back on the track so I just tried to inch my way back up on the track. We had a little bit of contact there, which usually happens, and unfortunately Kevin got a tire rub from that.

He didn’t leave me any space. He was pinning me down and I’ve got to get back on the track. When you’re in Kevin’s situation you want to give that car a bad angle so they have to lift [off the accelerator].

I was fine with lifting but I had to get back on the race track.

Of course, the pressure is on, as this is the first race of the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup. Both Harvick and Johnson made it into the first round of the Chase, and neither contender wants to be cut in the next three races.

Harvick’s team was able to repair the car and send it back out on lap 196 (even making a point to point his finger menacingly at Johnson’s crew on the way out!), but he finished a miserable 42nd. That’s not good in terms of scoring enough points to make it into the next round of the playoff-style Chase. He now sits at 16 out of 16 in the Chase standings.

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Johnson, on the other hand, was able to continue, and finished 11th in the race.

Harvick wasn’t happy about this at all, so he had a little “discussion” with Johnson after the race.

Harvick sometimes likes to talk with his hands, you see.

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According to Motorsport.com, Harvick’s business manager Josh Jones was the one who restrained Harvick from continuing his “discussion” further. Motorsport.com also reports that Johnson sought out Harvick after the race to talk it out, but clearly, Harvick wasn’t interested in a calm little chat.

Like the return of horrible “pumpkin spice”-flavored yecch in the fall, this fight makes it official: the Chase for the Sprint Cup has returned. Hold on to your butts, and don’t take your helmet off if the dude you came in contact with on track wants to have a chat.

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Denny Hamlin ultimately won the race after staying out when everyone else pitted for new tires at the end. This guarantees him an entry into the Contender Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, where the field is culled from sixteen to twelve drivers.

[Correction: As xTheEdgex points out, Jones is Harvick’s business manager, not Johnson’s. This has been corrected above.]


Contact the author at stef.schrader@jalopnik.com.